A ‘Welcome Mat’ for the Community

March 4, 2019
Toronto, Ontario
Perkins+Will Ontario
© Doublespace

New libraries aren’t built every day, especially when there’s one already serving the community. But the influx of new immigrants into Toronto’s post-war Rexdale suburb prompted the city’s progressive, neighborhood-focused public library authority to replace it with a more enticing, comprehensive, and service-minded version. “Providing services to immigrants was a design and program priority, a ‘welcome mat’ for the community,” explains Andrew Frontini, Principal of Perkins + Will Toronto and architect of the project.

The main challenge for the local office of Perkins+Will was to bring natural light into the tight, square form dictated by the site (the existing library’s parking lot) while maintaining privacy for the residents of nearby homes. The solution is an elegant, ingenious and playful presentation that grabs the attention of those traveling the busy Albion Road that runs in front of the building and serves a broad range of patrons in the community—so much so that use of the 29,000-sq.-ft. library has nearly doubled from its predecessor.

The signature exterior consists of a ventilated façade of narrow, colorful panels made exclusively of terracotta suspended from a water-resistant structural backing to protect the envelope.